COVID-19 Continues to Spread in Santa Barbara County Jail

Five New Cases Among Inmates, Four Among Custody Deputies

Santa Barbara County Jail | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

Among the five new COVID cases among Santa Barbara County Jail inmates, one person was positive upon arrest, and four were in the general jail population, the Sheriff’s Office announced August 3. The latter were apparently infected by a previous inmate, who has since been released, the Sheriff’s Office stated. They lived in a housing unit of 17 inmates, all of whom were tested. The other 13 tested negative but are being monitored.

Inmates who enter the jail COVID-positive are housed in negative-pressure rooms at the jail, but with such an infectious disease rampant in Santa Barbara County, the jail quarantines all new inmates for 14 days. The facility is holding 593 inmates at the moment, in housing units that vary in size, the largest with as many as 40 people, said Raquel Zick, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office. Contact between the housing-unit occupants is minimal, she said, both because of the setup of the jail and for infection control.

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Of the 14 inmates with coronavirus in the jail most recently, seven caught it in the jail, and seven came in with the disease, which was noted either during the new-prisoner quarantine or upon intake. Among them was one individual who voluntarily warned officers that he was COVID-positive when arrested. If inmates are released but still symptomatic, they are given health instructions and referred to Public Health, said Zick.

Roughly 200 custody deputies work at the jail, and four were out with the infection, as were three civilian staffers, as of July 30. Among all sheriff’s employees, 37 have contracted the virus since COVID showed up in the county, and 28 have recovered.

To control the spread of coronavirus in the jail, every two weeks inmates are supplied with a news KN95 mask — the duck-billed ones, Zick said — and some have cloth face coverings that are laundered once a week. They must wear them whenever they leave their housing unit. Bars of hand soap are provided, she said, as is education on hygiene and coronavirus.

“We’re trying hard to stay healthy,” said Zick. “We can give it to them, and they can give it to us.”

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